Ormskirk, Preston & Southport Travellers’ Association – time to redress 50 years of neglect!

The article below, about the Ormskirk, Preston and Southport Travellers Association (OPSTA) is from the May edition of Rail User Express the newsletter of Railfuture

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Much of the committee’s time in the early part of 2014 was taken up with formulating a response to the draft West Lancashire Transport Masterplan. Useful meetings were held with both council officers and local MP’s, and the group is hopeful that many of its suggestions will be incorporated in the final Masterplan. The lack of any statement about the Southport-Wigan line was an omission; also the group wanted to see a firm commitment to carry out further studies into the merits of a south-west curve at Burscough.

OPSTA has been involved in meetings about the role of Rail North, and the development of the railway in their area – especially prospects for electrification. The group notes that Northern has been tasked to refocus on revenue collection during their franchise extension period, and OPSTA members are asked to report incidents where ticket checks are not conducted on trains. The group will be monitoring patronage of the additional service on the Ormskirk-Preston route from the May timetable change, and they’ve persuaded Northern to at least produce a cost estimate for a Sunday service on the line.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the closure of the direct Southport-Preston line, and an event in September to mark the occasion is being planned. Correspondents to OPSTAs newsletter make the point that routes to Southport have been neglected in the intervening period, not the least because the town was perversely placed in Merseyside, while the railways to the east run primarily through West Lancashire. Reinstatement of the Burscough curves would once again facilitate easier journeys between Southport and Preston.

The OPSTA stand at Preston Model Rail Club show generated a good level of interest – and 4 new members! The stand will be out again at events in June. The Friends of Meols Cop Station have started work on a new wild flower garden, despite suffering the attention of vandals earlier in the year. At Croston Station, the Friends group has been working tirelessly for three years to turn the overgrown wilderness on the disused platform into a neat and colourful garden; “before” and “after” photos on the back cover of OPSTA’s magazine amply illustrate the fantastic transformation.

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I will write about Southport’s Meols Cop Station in a future posting.

Northern Rail & Warrington Central Station

What a cold and unwelcoming place Warrington Central Station is late at night. All but shut down but still open for the last couple of trains of the day when Jen and I got there last Thursday.

The platforms are high up so the wind rushes through them and it was cold, cold enough for the waiting room on the Liverpool bound platform to have been locked up! And I assume the Manchester bound waiting room was similarly locked. Then the lights went out on our platform but luckily the lights from the other one did not. After a few minutes I saw a chap appear in a room across the tracks to flick a switch and we were once again well lit. Not the most welcoming of stations especially in a major town, in fact it seemed more like a rural station that was hardly used in terms of its facilities at night.

The locked waiting Room

The locked waiting Room

Then the train came and it was like a shift back in time. The 150 diesel unit was modern on the outside in terms of its paint scheme but inside it really did look like it was in its original condition as built for BR. Not uncomfortable, far from it, but tired and seemingly unloved. It certainly brought home to me the recently raised concerns about the age and unrefurbished nature of many of the diesel units that are daily put into use by the Norther Rail franchise.

Inside the 152 diesel unit, which was in fact pack with folks on their way back to Liverpool and stations along the route.

Inside the 152 diesel unit, which was in fact packed with folks on their way back to Liverpool and stations along the route.

Readers will recall Southport MP John Pugh recently raising rolling stock concerns in the relation to the Southport – Wigan – Manchester line. John is of course right otherwise Northern Rail will become akin to a preserved railway!

Oh and by the way, no tickets could be bought at Warrington Central, none were sold or checked on the train and no ticket checks were made at Liverpool Lime Street. I wonder if this is always a ‘free to travel’ train.

Meols Cop Station – Vandalism destroys the work of volunteers

I met by old chum Cllr. David Sumner last Wednesday at a Sefton Council Planning Committee meeting and because we are both interested in railways he told me the sad story of the recent vandalism on the station which is maintained and indeed has been considerably improved by the work of a volunteer group led by David, his wife Pat and Dr Jim Ford.

Cllr. David Sumner

Cllr. David Sumner

Meols Cop is an odd station because whilst it is in Merseyside it is not really much loved by our Integrated Transport Authority Merseytravel. The trains calling at the station are all those of Northern Rail on the Southport – Wigan line.

It seems that a few days ago someone or a group of people simply trashed the station plants and the planters they were in causing a huge amount of damage. I wonder how they would feel if we turned up at their house and trashed their garden.

Knowing David and his fellow volunteers they will try to pull things together again but why should their efforts, on behalf of us all, be ruined by thugs? Stations being adopted by volunteer groups are now the norm; just look at Maghull on the Liverpool Ormskirk Line. There volunteers have transformed the station and won many awards in recent years.

Good luck to the Friends of Meols Cop Station.

Have a look at this link for more information about the Friends of Meols Cop Station:-

http://www.southport.gb.com/southport/news_list/Friends_Of_Meols_Cop_Station-51448953.htm